Visual artist Eileen Muza has lived in the ghost town of Cisco since 2015, and has spent the last four years restoring the town with salvaged materials in hopes of bringing more creatives to the beautiful and abandoned outpost.
In the 1880s, Cisco was an old Western railroad town under the starry Utah sky. The Denver and Rio Grande Western traveled through, and visitors mingled with local ranchers and shepherds in the city’s saloon, restaurants, and hotels. In 1924, oil, turquoise, and natural gas were discovered nearby, which caused the town to grow.
But as freeways and more locomotives began to skirt the tiny Utah town, it became easier and easier to bypass it, rendering it into a ghost town. Stories of murder and mayhem from the town’s history, including shootings at Ethel’s to fugitives passing through to sinister alleged visits from Ted Bundy, certainly didn’t help the town’s reputation. Still, after hearing about the place from a seatmate on a flight, Muza left her “normal” Chicago life for permanent residence in the ghost town.
Today, there are approximately 100 abandoned buildings in Cisco, most of which are dilapidated sheds and shacks, and building materials left scattered about. Muza estimates that there are only seven fully intact buildings, one of which is her log cabin, another being Ethel’s Cafe. Two buildings, the log cabin and the post office, are available for overnight guests.
The residency that’s set up in the town, “Home of the Brave,” invites an artist to set up their studio inside a remodeled 1970s Winnebago Brave camper in the center of town, with windows facing east toward Sal Mountain and west toward the Bookcliffs.
For those who can handle extreme seasonal temperature swings and the imposing presence of desert dust and wind storms, Cisco is an ideal place to escape any kind of comfort zone.
With old oil wells and outhouses as a backdrop, Muza has rebuilt and restored big chunks of what remains of Cisco with her hands, finding strange examples of everyday life in an old desert town along the way, like a television hidden in a late-19th-century dugout, a half-full bottle of maple syrup sitting where a wood-burning stove used to be, an old military jacket stuffed between two walls (with a packet of tobacco in it, stamped 1939).
Know Before You Go
Cisco is no longer abandoned. Be respectful of the town's restoration efforts and resident by not smashing any structures or trespassing into homes. Those wishing to support the town's restoration efforts can donate here.